“I don’t know” is a banned phrase in CaliforniaTeacherGuy’s classroom.
Many of my students are so afraid of making mistakes that they donâ€™t even try to formulate intelligent responses to my questions. When I ask them their opinion about a poem or a story we have just read, they automatically reply, “I don’t know.” They seem to think that thinking is too hard, and “I don’t know” is an easy way out.
But as I was walking by starlight early this morning, I decided to outlaw the phrase “I don’t know” in my classroom. Instead, I’m going to teach the kids to say, “I’m not sure, but I think …”
When I was a sailing counselor, many decades ago, I would tell nervous girls to make mistakes. I promised not to let them drown or yell at them. They were much more afraid of being yelled at. I also taught my daughter to ride a bicycle by making her practice crashing (on the lawn). She couldn’t ride until she lost her fear of falling down. On the other hand, nobody in my family ever has said “I don’t know” when there was a chance to express an opinion.